Reg Noble was one of the NHL's earliest stars. The Hockey Hall of Famer starred both as a forward and defenseman most notably with the Toronto Arenas/St. Patricks (later renamed Maple Leafs) as well as the Montreal Maroons, Montreal Canadiens and the Detroit Cougars/Falcons/Red Wings.
Noble, one of 10 children of Charles and Ellen Noble, grew up in Collingwood Ontario. A 1920s newspaper article by writer Sam Mcguire recalled his earliest hockey days.
"Reg can't remember when he first grabbed a hockey stick, but it must have been a few years after he was born, because he can remember (playing) when he was five years old. And he was a star in his grammar school days," McGuire wrote. "When only 14, he was selected to play with the (area league) championship team of his hometown. He was tried out at centre, and his play was so exceptional he attracted the attention of critics in the larger cities."
The following season he would play for the now-legendary St. Michael's College in Toronto, although he would only play their briefly. Attracted by the money he would jump to the semi-pro Toronto Riversides of the OHA senior circuit.
By 1916 Noble would be a full-fledged pro hockey player, playing with Toronto of the National Hockey Association. By 1917-18 the NHA was reborn as the NHL, and Toronto was the NHL's first Stanley Cup champion.
Noble was a big part of Toronto's hockey success in the 1920s. He was a fan favorite - so much so that legend has it one fan would blare a siren whenever Noble started one of his patented rushes, sending the fans into a frenzy. But he was a complete player, too, known for his rugged play as well as his stick checking. His strong play led Toronto to another Stanley Cup title in 1922.
Noble would leave Toronto in 1924, largely because the team felt he was too independent for their liking. Known as a bit of a free spirit, he began missing curfews and team training events. The team moved him to the Montreal Maroons where he would win a third Stanley Cup championship in 1926.
Noble was such a good defensive player that he increasingly played on the blue line as his career progressed. There was no Norris Trophy for top defenseman back in those days, but this All Star forward would have been a contender for such an award.
His wizardry as a poke-check artist was applauded, as well as his rugged bodychecking. Check out this quote about a Noble hip check on January 25th, 1925.
(Noble) desperately swung his hip into the hurtling Morenz, sending him flying through the air. Morenz landed on his knees, knelt for a few moments, then collapsed. He was carried off the ice, dazed and winded. Noble was sent off for charging."
Running into financial problems the Maroons moved Noble to Detroit in 1927 where he would star for 5 more years before a brief return to Montreal.
Noble retired in 1934, though he would later return to the NHL as a referee. He would leave the NHL to pursue construction contracts with the Canadian military starting in World War II, and continuing until his death from a sudden heart attack in 1962.
Reg Noble scored 181 goals in 536 games in the NHA and NHL. He was inducted posthumously into the Hall of Fame in 1962.
Perhaps Noble's memory is best captured by writer Sam McGuire, who wrote: "A fractured skull, nose broken three times, elbows dislocated twice, every finger cracked at least once, 100 stitches put into his body, legs bruised and battered, a mass of welts and scars from head to foot - and still one of the most feared defensemen in hockey. Now that's hockey!"